Monday, 21 July 2014

The many uses of a humble shed

1. A poolroom in a garden shed 

Name: The humble garden shed 
Characteristics: modern; permanent; small size; private
Former functions: a shed
Current use: a pool room 
Main functions: enjoy a game of pool and a drink 
Why do people visit: chat, play and relax.

2. An engine shed 

Buildings in Use: work of others

Whilst preparing my coursework for the assignment 3 I came across many interesting photographic portfolios that gave me inspiration.

I wanted to share the links to some of them here:

Fernando Guerra -

Eddy Joaquim–-eddy-joaquim/

Rus Blees Luxemburg

Simon Kennedy

Friday, 18 July 2014

Learning visit: Digital Revolution, July 2014

As part of my studies for the assignment 3 of People and Place I recently visited Barbican to see this exhibition. 

Described as 'the most comprehensive presentation of digital creativity ever to be staged in the UK' (source: the exhibition was a fascinating place to watch people interacting with technology and space.

It was interesting to notice that:
People had very different approaches to the space around them
Were attracted to different things 
Had their own unique way to connect and explore what was around them.

I took some photos to capture some people during their moments of play and exploration. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Buildings in use: Exploring how space changes with light

For this exercise I selected two locations: my log cabin in my back garden and my village church.

The log cabin

I set my camera on the tripod and left it in one place for a number of days taking photos at different times of day and night. This resulted in the following set of images.

These images were taken at different time of day and in different weather.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Buildings and spaces: User’s perspective

One of the key learning points from the previous exercise was about the importance of the users’ perspective in determining or re-shaping the functions of a building or space. This lead me smoothly to the theme of the second exercise which is all about the user’s point of view.

For this exercise I visited a number of places choosing those that are designed for a particular activity that is usually undertaken from a specific position or angle. I also looked out for any venues that might be designed for a specific type of user (whereby it would be necessary to use a non standard angle or position to capture their viewpoint).

My first visit was to a village vet surgery on a quiet afternoon.
When taking the photos I was trying to imagine what the place would look like from a dog’s point of view. We don’t know exactly what the dogs see but what we do know is that they see less colour (colour blind to red and green spectrum). Taking this into consideration I changed the colour balance of my images in the Photoshop.
A vet reception on a quiet afternoon must be a very boring place for dogs as there are no other dogs or people to say hello to. No wonder that our dog friend captured in the image is looking out onto the street. When taking this image I pretended for a moment to be another dog trying to image what it would be like from a dog’s point of view.
I thought that the second dog that is looking through the camera lens would be keen to get as close as possible to the dog captured in this picture. So I got next to the brown dog and got low on my knees to get the same level of view.
I also looked up for some information on the internet about dogs’ vision as I wanted to understand if we know how they might see the world around them. I found some article and adjusted the colour scheme of the image to match the descriptions in my internet sources (links included below).

A quiet day at the village vet 

My second image was taken at a local sport club. Sport activities, especially those that require a team or an opponent to participate, are the classic examples of the situations where a user’s position is strictly prescribed. Whilst getting ready to take this image I positioned myself at the far end of the badminton court serving box. I assumed a suitable posture / position and pressed the shutter button. I chose a wide-angle lens for this image because this is how I tend to observe the playing area around me during a game of badminton. I would usually keep an eye on the opponent but at the same time try to observe a wider picture. I think that the angle may differ depending on the activity. In some cases, such as ten pin bowling it might be more appropriate to use a medium telephoto lens to truly capture the filed of view of a player.

One thing I would like to have done to make this image more interesting is to capture an image featuring the opponent across the court. Unfortunately this opportunity did not materialise at the time but I think it would have definitely improve the image.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Buildings and spaces: exploring function

Preparing for the assignment
For this exercise I chosen London Borough Market. From the point of its function a market is essentially a place to buy and sell various goods. In case of Borough Market the goods on offer are mostly fresh and farmers’ produce, as well as food and drink.
Before venturing out on my image-hunting mission I made some notes reflecting on why people come to Borough Market.
My main observations were:
·      People come here to shop and buy fresh (originally mostly farmers’) produce
·      People come to snack or enjoy a quick drink. There are no places to seat and eat immediately at the market so the majority of people who buy some food move around and eat on the go or chose to sit in one of many restaurants and cafeterias on the fringes of the market.  
·      Local office workers also come to grab some lunch. You see a lot of them spilling out on the streets from the nearby office blocks and small tucked away offices. They usually move away quite quickly, apparently wary of the crowds.  
·      People come to sell their produce. The Market houses a lot of traders and as the goods on offer are no longer limited to fresh foods and farmer’s produce, the traders come from all cultural, ethnical and professional backgrounds.
·      People also come to look around, browse and soak up the atmosphere of the market. In this way, it is an experience – of being in London and being a part of it. The Market is often used as a meeting place and is popular with people watchers, tourists, photographers and all sort of idle folk with time on their hands.
The list above shows that there are many different aspects to the place which main function could be described simply as a place to sell and buy fresh food and snacks.

Another question I considered is who are the main users/ audiences on the Market. I came up wit this list:
Traders - Residents of London and visitors
Shoppers - Residents of London and visitors
People watchers and tourists.

I found this exercise useful and something that is definitely worth doing every time before a photo shoot as it helps not to miss important things when on location. It is all about thinking though in advance which elements or aspects of a subject would be important to capture.

Thinking about how well these functions are fulfilled, I think that the popularity of Borough Market is the best answer – it is a great place that fulfils everyone’s expectations and is such an enjoyable experience for people who come and visit.

How is this to be reflected in the images? Perhaps, through the use of colours and possibly through capturing the variety, the liveliness of the place and the sense of the flow and the constant movement of people.

Thinking about the elements that I would like to capture I would perhaps like to show the surroundings (the old railway bridge) to give a sense of the history and tradition. Finally, each visit to this market for me has been in some way a magical experience and I would like to have this feeling expressed in one of my images depicting the market. This is a personal challenge and I am aware that it might not fit exactly within this assignment which requires only one photograph of the place.

Practical reflections on working on this assignment

When I arrived at the market, I first had a walk around to take in the whole scene and get the sense of it as well as to refresh my memory of the available space and its dynamics. Because the market is stretched over both sides of the railway bridge it does not seem to be possible to capture it in one go (unless it is a stitched panorama or a collage made up of many different images). However, I don’t think it would be strictly necessary if we are aiming to convey the sense of the place.
Sometimes an image of a small part tells you a lot about the whole picture that was left outside of the frame. Whilst walking around the market I identified a few potentially suitable spots.  My greatest disappointment was the lack of elevation as I thought it would be ideal to take some photos from above to convey the scale of the place and to show the movement of people through the rows of stalls.

When taking photos at the market it is good to be aware that there are a lot of people here who are constantly moving around.

It is also good to be aware of the authorities present at the site – the best approach is to let them know in advance as there might be some restrictions on how photography is carried out (especially important if a tripod is to be used) and if it is allowed. Generally speaking, it is possible to take photos at any market but other public places such as railway stations and airports might require a permission to be issued in advance.

Comments on the final image

I selected this image as the final image for this assignment because I think it:
Shows how the space works and convey the main function of the market with a customer and a trader facing the camera and engaged in the process of trading interaction.

The figures of some other people on the background highlight the fact that this is a busy place with many customers and onlookers present.

I wanted to reflect the flow of the market and the people and this has been done by increasing the exposure time to give the background figures and fast moving subjects a slight blur.

The emotions showing on the faces of the trader and its customer are the ones of enjoyment, lightness and content. It was my aim to show some positive emotions on people’s faces as the market is a colourful and vibrant place that gives a truly uplifting and positive experience to its many visitors.

Depicts the location of the market well: we see the underbelly of the railway bridge which serves as the market roof. A careful observer could also get some hints to the long history and tradition of this market.

Additional images from the final selection

Friday, 28 March 2014

Project "Public events, public spaces"

If you ever find yourself short of things to do on Boxing Day and wishing you could do something different from the usual 'family lunch and walk' set routine, head for Grantchester. I won't be the first person recommending this, the Guardian got there first! Here is a link to their 'Where to go bonkers on Boxing Day' articles where Grantchester Barrel Rolling is mentioned:

Grantchester Boxing Day Barrel Rolling dates back to 60s and is very popular now.The event is well organised and is fun to attend. There are teams from Grantchester and the nearby villages competing for the prices and the day ends with a jolly celebration in the local pubs.

Why not come next year to see for yourself?

This set of images is from the last Barrel Race - all images were shot with my Canon 5D Mark II and a choice of zoom lenses with focal length ranging from 40 mm to 200 mm.
The day was still and overcast but dry providing almost perfect conditions for photographing people at the race (no strong shadows on faces, manageable levels of contrast).
The whole event lasts about 45 minutes so you have to be quick and ready for action. There are also a lot of people attending so it might be hard to work out the best positions. The races happen one after the other in a fast succession so there isn't much time to think and re-adjust.
The event is a great opportunity to catch some good shots of the races but also the people watching the action - Grantchester is a great spot for people watching as it draws in a lot of interesting and eccentric characters.

I took many shots trying to vary the angles and my position. I am including a selection of images below with some commentary.
My aim was to create a series of around 10 images that would work together and narrate the story line of this event. To achieve that, I included some general images to show the activity in the context of the place as well as some close-up shots of participants and the viewers. I tried to follow the sequence of the event as much as possible when organizing my collection. I used some black and white images as a link to the long-standing tradition of this event. Some things never stay the same and other things don't seem to change at all - I think that some of these images look timeless and it might be easy to mistake them for those taken many years ago
Image 1.

This general shot gives a viewer an overview of the place, the event and the people taking part in it. It is amazing how much information can be picked up and understood from a single shot! I like the strong sense of anticipation and suspense that the low angle has created. It was taken with a zoom lens set at 60 mm. I chose 1/250 sec setting at F 8 and 400 ISO to compensate for the movements. 

Image 2.

This image brings us right to the 'front-line' and the starting point of the race. Comparing to the first image, it is almost as if you jump from being a viewer to a race participant - the fact that this change is instant helps to convey the sense of the moment when the race starts. To make it real, sharp and active, I chose to keep the colours. 

The image was taken with a zoom lens set at 24 mm, then cropped at the post-production stage. I used 1/125 sec exposure at F 8 and 400 ISO to compensate for the movements. 

Image 3.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Project: Standard focal length

I use standard focal length quite a lot in people and street photography. I like the fact that the proportions and viewpoints appear natural and less distorted than when using a wide-angle lens. When out with my camera, I usually have at least one standard ;lens with me at all times. This time I had my Canon 5D MII with a 45 to 70 mm zoom lens. 

Image 1

I asked the lady's permission to take her photos as I thought she and her dog looked spectacular. This image was taken with a 50 mm focal length. I tried to use the natural lines formed by the window frame and the wall immediately behind the lady to lead the viewer's gaze to the main subject. I decided to position them at an angle to the lens (so the lady's feet are not facing the camera and the dog is facing the other way) to match the directions of the natural lines within the frame. I think this helped to make the (otherwise quite a simple and straightforward) image more interesting. In post-production, I decided to go for a single-tone version to enhance the natural lines within the frame. 
It was easy to approach the lady and she was happy to give me the permission to take the photos. We ended up chatting about her dog and dogs in general and I felt it was really nice to connect to her for a brief moment. 

Images 2, 3 and 4 were taken at an outdoor community project launch event in Cambridge. I took some photos of the Community Support Police Officers talking to passer-byes.
For these images I set my camera to 1/125 sec at f/ 5.6, ISO 50 as I wanted to get bright images with fine grain. The natural light was sufficient for me to keep the ISO setting low at 50. I used an equivalent of 50 mm focal length for these shots.
I had plenty of time and space to work out the best position and framing so in terms of composition I am pleased with how the images turned out. Good natural light also meant that it was easy to set the camera white balance setting so there wasn't a need for any colour correction work at a post-production stage. Using a standard lens meant that there was no need for any adjustments to the perspective etc as all the proportions and lines within the frames were natural.

Images 5 and 6 were taken at the Mill Road Winter Fair in Cambridge.
The day was overcast so I had to push the ISO setting up to 200. I used the equivalent of 50 mm focal length for these shots.
The camera exposure settings were 1/180 at f/ 6.7. I deliberately tilted the camera for Image 5 to create a sense of movement although my subject was not moving (only pretending to ride the knitted bike!). Using the standard focal length meant that I was standing at a comfortable distance - not too close and not too far and was able to communicate to the 'rider'.

I spotted these two girls chatting along whilst waiting for their turn to perform. I did not want to intimidate them too much with my camera but as I was already standing quite close to them my standard lens was all that I needed for this shot. I like that the image includes some other brightly dressed people on the background and I think that this helps to convey the atmosphere of the event.

Taking a photo of the girls with a telephoto lens would create quite a different effect as the background details would likely to be blurred. I am including a photo taken with a 200 mm telephoto lens below to demonstrate the difference. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Project: Medium Telephoto. Standing back.

For this exercise I found myself image hunting in London and Grantchester. I used my Canon 5D MII and a 70 to 200 mm lens. I took quite a variety of shots on these days and am including a small selection to demonstrate the benefits of using a telephoto lens. 

Image 1
This image was taken in the village of Grantchester on an overcast day. There was a well-attended village event on the day so the place was crowded with people, dogs, cars and children. This kind of environment makes it easier to approach the chosen subject so it was not difficult for me to spot these two wonderfully reach characters conversing at a table. The couple was so preoccupied with their conversion that they did not pay much attention to what was happening around them. Using the telephoto lens allowed me to stay at a safe distance and go annotated. `i made a number of images and I selected this one because I liked the way the smoke was raising from the pipe. I also liked the intense face expressions of the two characters. I opened up the aperture and increased my shutter speed to freeze the moment. To make my key subjects stand out of the immediate background (which happened to be busy and noisy with colours and shapes) I decided to make the image black and white. I think this worked quite well. 

Image 2

This image was taken in London. The morning sun threw a perfect long shadow across the street and I was quite far away when I spotted the opportunity. The two people enjoying some coffee and a cigarette we quite nervous about being photographed. So I turned my camera to the side whilst adjusting the aperture and working on the camera settings. I wanted to wait for the cigarette smoke to appear in the sun light. I kept my camera ready but pretended not to look towards the couple. When I spotted the right mount I raised the camera quickly and fired a few shots, then moved away. I chosen this image as the smoke was clearly visible in the sun light enhancing the atmosphere of the scene.
I really enjoyed catching the moment with the additional challenge of not showing much interest prior to the shot. I will definitely use this technique in the future if people are anxious or nervous about my camera. Again, I decided to make the image black and white to focus on the smoke, the sun light and shadows.

Image 3

This is my second image of the 'Beer conversation in Grantchester'. I think it catches very well the tension and the emotions of the interaction. The atmosphere of the scene is quite intense and this keeps the focus on the conversation and the main characters, their hands and faces despite the fact that there is no eye contact with the viewer.  In post production, I darkened the edges and corners of the image to draw the attention to the centre.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Project Wide-angle: close and involved

Wide-angle lens is invaluable in reportage and street photography as it allows to take in a much more of the surroundings and by doing so, it helps to tell the story. This could represent a challenge for the photographer  because of the need and the necessity to get quite close to the subject.

For this exercise I decided to push my own boundaries and try to get as close as possible to someone who I have never met before to take photos as a close range with a wide-angle lens. I realised that the task was challenging and that I might not succeed but nevertheless decided to have a go, even if my attempt does not bring the desired results. 

I happened to walk into St Pancras train station to witness a very interesting and totally spontaneous event. A man with a child in a push chair stopped to listen to a lady playing a piano. They were obviously total strangers but the baby's reaction to the music and her singing  somehow brought them together to enjoy the music for a brief moment. I jumped on the chance to take some photos asking their permission first - by that time both the man and the woman were so excited and enjoying the moment that they waived at me happily.

I used my Canon 5D Mark II with a 16 to 35 mm wide angle zoom lens. I had to open the aperture and change ISO to 800 to make up for the lack of light and my constantly moving and active subjects. I found that I could not use the wide-angle lens at its widest point (16 mm) even if I wanted to as at 29 I was already so close to my subject that the piano was stopping me to get any closer! Amazingly, the couple continued enjoying themselves despite the fact that my camera lens was at such a close range to them! I tried to use both vertical and horizontal framing to compensate for inability to move around my subjects - unfortunately once the position was chosen there seemed to be no way of walking to the other side without upsetting the whole harmony of the image. 

Image 1

I tried to use the length of the piano as a natural line when framing this shot. I wanted this line to lead from the lady piano player to the man and the baby creating a connection between my subjects. I thought this was important as they weren't looking at each other. I've chosen this image because the man's stretched hand formed another line making the composition of the image even stronger. 
I also liked the matching red scarves and the sense of movement in the top part of the photo.  

Image 2